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ICIR-funded report, others emerge winner at 2020 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting

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AN investigative report funded by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, on Wednesday emerged winner at the 2020 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting (WSAIR).

The 15th edition of the award programme which held in Lagos had in attendance investigative reporters, news editors and dignitaries.

WSAIR  promotes and encourages best practices in journalism and works that focus on themes ranging from regulatory failures, corruption in the public and corporate spheres, and human rights abuses in the country.

Damilola Banjo, an investigative reporter with BBC, won the overall Nigeria Investigative Journalist of the year 2020 for her investigation on Justice for Sale: Inside the Lagos Anti-Cultism ‘Illegal’ Detention Centre which was published by The ICIR.

 The joint investigative piece by Habib Oladapo and Damilola Banjo, “Inside a Lagos state school where A1 can be bought” (Part 1& 2), published by The ICIR, was commended in the same category.

Banjo’s report exposed the encounters of several Nigerians, old and young, with the police institution in Nigeria that brazenly violates the fundamental human rights of citizens and the country’s law through arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, torture, and commoditizing justice and bail.

Her investigation showed that at every point in the Nigerian justice system, there is a corrupt government official ripping innocent Nigerians off and doing it so brazenly.

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Her second report exposes examination malpractices in a popular Lagos school during the last WAEC and JAMB exams.

A victory for grit, hard work and mentorship – Banjo told The ICIR

In a phone conversation with Damilola Banjo, she said emerging overall Nigeria Investigative Journalist of the year 2020 at the WSAIR is a victory for grit, hard work and mentorship. “I will like to give a special mention to the man who gave me my first shot, Omoyele Sowore, and every person that have helped me in my very young career,” she said.

According to her, there has been a frightening surge in violation of press freedom and human rights across the country. Just as journalists are being hounded and their words maliciously taken out of context, we have also seen war weapons deployed to quell peaceful protests.

“It is a hard time to be a Nigerian and indeed a dangerous time to be a journalist. Yet, it is the time for more rigorous, fact-based journalism that continues to uphold the truth, strengthen our democracy and hold everyone to account—not just the government.

“This award is to everyone who have labored for people like me to come through. To all the journalists putting their safety at risk to tell the much needed stories.”

Banjo went further to thank “Selase Kove-Seyram, an astute journalist from Ghana, the TigerEye Foundation and the International Centre For Investigative Reporting (ICIR) that funded the impactful stories that was awarded. Idris Akinbajo of Premium Times and Amzat Ajibola of The ICIR, two renowned editors who continue to show me how indispensable editors are. Editors are gods.

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“I dedicate this to my two mums, single mothers who taught me perseverance and hard work, my little brother, my colleagues and friends. This is a victory for you all,” she said.

She, however, thanks Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism for the yearly encouragement they give to journalists in Nigeria.

Other winners from the 2020 WSAIR include Victor Asowata of Punch Newspaper, who won the Editorial Cartoon Category and Bukola Samuel Wemimo of TVC News as the winner of the Television category.

To reinforce WSCIJ’s three-day in-depth media conference and awards’ campaign on the theme – Masked not silenced, Juliana Francis, the 2014 WSCIJ-Nigerian Investigative Reporter of the Year, made a statement on behalf of the organisation.

The statement highlighted the fact that the media has been masked by many challenges, but it remains undaunted and cannot be silenced. Juliana concluded the speech with a call to action for reporters to investigate the death of Pelumi Onifade, the Gboah reporter who died in the custody of officers attached to the Lagos Task Force.

Held first in October 2005, the programme has produced 102 finalists with 11 investigative journalists of the year and 24 honorary awards recipients. This year, the winners, runners-up and commended works were presented cash prizes of N200,000, N100,000 and N50,000 respectively, plus a certificate of commendation. In addition, winners got award plaques and a laptop; runners-up got a smartphone and commended works got a hard drive.

The promo of “Child sex trade”, a documentary by Sharon Ijasan which will be aired on TVC on Sunday 13 December during the 10pm news, was aired at the award event. Ijasan received an anonymous grant at last year’s edition where she was runner up for her work on child labour. The 2020 ceremony was moderated by Deji Badmus, Executive Director, TV360, and three-time winner of the award. It was enlivened by a musical dance performance by the Kininso Koncepts which faulted the impunity with which politicians and men in uniform attack and harass journalists for speaking the truth to power.

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Author profile

Abeeb Alawiye formerly works with The ICIR as a Reporter/Social Media officer. Now work as a Senior Journalist with BBC News Yoruba. You can shoot him an email via Abeeb.alawiye@bbc.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @habsonfloww

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